“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Matthew 6:16-18 (NIV)
Jesus lays the question out again: “is it about your reputation or about your relationship with me?”
If you fast so you appear spiritual, then appearing spiritual is your reward. If you fast to fulfill a requirement (which the religious leaders were only required to fast one or two times per year) then checking a box and fitting in is your reward.
If you are fasting, and it’s not about your reputation but your relationship with your Heavenly Father, then you are okay with the secrecy and not having it made known. When you do it when no one knows or can tell—or you are proud an tell others—then your reward comes from your Heavenly Father. The reward we receive from God far outweighs any acknowledgement, weight loss, and the feeling that you are fitting in.
Fasting isn’t as much about what you give up but what you add in.
If you fast food but replace it with work, what’s the purpose of the fast? To be successful?
If you fast coffee at your favorite spot and replace it with running errands, what benefit is it?
When you fast to improve your relationship with your Heavenly Father then you add time with him as the replacement for what you are giving up.
Replace what you give up with reading the Bible, meditation on scripture, prayer, or serving someone.
When you add one of these, then your reward will be greater than the cost of the fast.
My Next Step:
Give up something and replace it with time with Jesus. Whether reading the Bible, praying, or serving someone. Do it without letting anyone know about it.